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Sell me your broken computer

Macbook power issues

edited October 2012 in MacBook
Hi,

Black Macbook 1 (late 2006) recently encountered a wine spillage. Some keys stopped working next morning, I took it into a (non-apple) place locally for damage limitation, they cleaned it out, dried it and said it would need a new keyboard.

It carried on working with a few missing keys. Then one morning I shut it down, packed it up, took it on a trip in the car and when I next switched on, nothing happened. I tried resestting the SMC, nothing. At this time, the green power light would still show when the power adaptor was plugged in, and when a battery was also inserted, the adaptor showed orange and the battery showed charging on the green dots, until it was full and the adaptor light went green.

In the meantime, I bought Black Macbook 2 from ebay (don't know the year, might be 2008, the heat sinks are same as 1 (curvy - I been watching your v helpful yt vid :D). It was advertised as not charging the battery, I assumed that I could use the working battery from 1 (had a similar problem with 1 a while back). When I picked up 2, the guy said the battery had just started to charge again, implying it wasn't the battery at fault. This was the case for the first few days, although sometimes the laptop said 'Not charging', sometimes it thought it had no battery, sometimes restarting set it charging again, and sometimes tapping the case near the charging point also did this. It hasn't charged anything for a few days now.

Then I found a cheap replacement keyboard (3) on ebay, so I got that for 1, hoping that would make it work and I could re-sell 2 (at the time I didn't want to take 2 apart at all, since it did actually work, now I've got used to it I'm swapping bits between them).

I've tried keyboards 2 and 3 in macbook 1 and it won't switch on. So now I've put the original keyboard back into 1. Then I re-inserted a battery into 1 and connected the power, the battery didn't start to charge. The adaptor only showed green (after a wait of many minutes) for batteries 1 and 2. BUT I pressed the power button and then either battery started to charge. I've repeated that process several times now, and it does the same every time.

I've got 2 power adaptors, and the behaviour of macbooks 1 and 2 doesn't change whichever I use, they both seem to work, so I've ruled them out. I've also tried both hard drives in 2, and they are both fine.

So, 1 is alive somewhere on the inside and charges batteries, and seems to get something from the keyboard although it won't switch on. What's the next best course for this? Would it still be charging the batteries if it was the logic board at fault?

2 is still confused. When I put the battery that came with 2 back in, the power adaptor is green, the indicator says 'Not charging' and the cycle count is 3, which is about what it would have done since I bought it (I have no battery life history from the previous owner other than that it 'started to charge again' the day before I bought it). When I put the battery from 1 in (which is fully charged) the status shows 100%, source is 'power adaptor', light is green, cycles are 40 (about right, I got it in August), and the laptop dies without the adaptor.
When I took the keyboard out, there was a metal part round the charger port top left which seemed to have moved, I popped it back into place hoping this would be the cause. It did charge a battery for a bit (first time in days), then it gave up and went back to the power adaptor on green, laptop goes dead as soon as I disconnect the adaptor. Is this the logic board or something or is it likely to be some simple connector that needs cleaning/replacing/wiggling?

As an extra, having started taking them all apart tonight, the logic board in 1 which was 'cleaned' does appear on close amateur inspection to have bits of gloop on it, maybe I should clean it myself?? Also I found a bit of metal wire just hanging about on top of the logic board (caught round the wires top left). It's a long rectangular C-shape, suspiciously slightly smaller than the (UK-shape) return key, which I'd popped off before I took it to the shop, as that was one of the keys that stopped working. They re-fitted the key. It might not be, i'm just saying... it's that kind of wire but maybe it could have come from somewhere...?

Sorry this is a long question, hope it makes sense and be grateful for any advice offered.

Answers

  • Hi Smeet! Thanks for the question.

    I think the main problem here is that you have not really ruled out any parts as definitely bad or good, so you are looking at the whole situation in its totality and the problem is never getting any smaller. Troubleshooting computer stuff is like a geometry proof -- if you look at it as a whole, you will be overwhelmed, and you will be taking shots in the dark as far as trying to find the answer. But if you figure out what you absolutely know and don't know step by step and thereby reduce the number of possibilities, you can break it down in pieces until the answer is all that's left.

    You need to figure out if the batteries are good, if the battery connectors are good, if the topcases are good, etc., and then you will be left with the answer, or at least closer to the answer. If a battery charges at any point, you know it's capable of being charged, and you know the battery connector charging it is good. I would download Coconut Battery to confirm stats on the batteries. 90% of charging problems are just bad/weak batteries that people are assuming are good. It's conceivable that a battery connector could be loose and working only at times (although unlikely), so it might make sense to take both battery connectors out, clean the connectors with alcohol, and then re-install them with a firm push to make sure they are all the way in. But beyond that, if they ever charge a battery, you know the connector is good. I would go so far as to label parts "good" so you don't forget that fact in the flurry of moving everything around, because it's moving everything around and losing track of the facts that gets you chasing your tail.

    It could be the board, but it's more likely batteries or the battery connectors. The way to isolate the problem to the board and connector is to test charging with a battery that you absolutely know is a good battery. The way to then isolate the problem to the board is to test charging a known-good battery with a known-good battery connector. But again, if you're any less than 100% certain that your parts are good, you're not going to be able to determine anything conclusively.

    A piece of metal inside the computer is never good, so removing that might help. Loose metal runs the chance of causing electrical shorts and erratic behavior. That said, it's far more often a bad part that causes these kinds of things than a loose piece of metal. I don't think loose shielding by the DC-in would be at fault. DC-ins in general are almost never bad in A1181s unless you get liquid right on them and they are covered in visible corrosion.

    A dim light on the AC connector can be due to a memory problem, or a bad RAM slot, or a weak connection to an AC adapter, or a bad AC adapter, or a fried board. To test the slots, I'd try the computer with one slot empty, and then the other slot empty. A bad slot that has memory in it will cause the computer to malfunction.

    If a known-good topcase will not power the machine on, you might have a damaged board, or a damaged topcase socket on the board. Many A1181s have power-on pads on the board you can use to jump the power, but I don't believe 2006 models do. Generally, if you disconnect the topcase and connect AC power, the board will automatically power on, so I'd try that.

    Beyond that, clean any visible corrosion with rubbing alcohol, because any number of issues can be caused by liquid damage.

    Hope that helps,

    John
  • edited November 2012
    Hi,

    Thanks for your help! I've only just got round to looking again, because I smashed the screen on the working one last night, so I've just swapped the screens. I don't think I was very clear in my original question, although it made sense to me, I had tested the topcases, chargers and batteries and was satisfied they were all working fine.

    Anyway when I changed the screen, I fiddled about with the battery connector parts (in the laptop which worked but didn't charge batteries), and at the same time reset the smc, reconnecting the power cable before refitting the battery, and something has worked because now it runs off and charges both batteries (just wish I knew what did it!).

    So now I'm left with one machine which won't power on. It has a good battery, and the adaptor and topcase are both working. I've tested 2 sets of working ram/hard drives, including one slot at a time.

    The non-working machine charges the battery when attached to the power adaptor, just doesn't power on. However, it only starts to charge the battery when I press the power-on button! It doesn't power on when the topcase is disconnected and the ac is connected, and I have tried jumping it (several times, with a paperclip and a screwdriver) and that did nothing.

    I'll give the board a good clean, but if that doesn't work, do you think it's worth going any further (is there even anywhere else to go?!)? Or just buy a replacement board? Is it possible to test parts of the board? If it's shorted somewhere is it possible to find out where or to fix any part of a board?


    Thanks, Jill

  • Hi Jill! Sorry for the delay. Yeah, at this point it's probably safe to say it's a board issue. There isn't always an answer, unfortunately. Board-level repair is possible, but it requires electrical engineering expertise that people on our level just don't have, plus schematics, so if the easy fixes don't work, there's really not a lot within reason that can be done.

    I'd try to jump it with multiple tools, just to make sure you're not using one that doesn't properly bridge the connection. Also, battery connectors can be fidgety, so a good push in the socket can make the difference between charging and not charging. Make sure to clean the underside of the board -- sometimes people clean the top and forget that there may be residue underneath.

    Anyway, good luck!

    John
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